Organizational leaders today face daunting challenges: an uncertain economy, faster technology, globalization. Given all of these changes, leaders must develop new skills to succeed in their current and future roles. But how does one go about identifying and developing these required skills? Working with an executive coach or a career counselor may be one solution. “Both help clients assess and develop their professional capabilities,” says Ben Dattner, an executive coach and adjunct professor at New York University. However, there are some distinctions between executive coaches and career counselors, so it is important to select the right professional depending on what type of transition you are making. “The goal of career counseling is generally about making a change, and the goal of executive coaching is generally about moving forward along a defined path,” says Dattner.
Career Counselors: Making a Change
Dattner suggests that a career counselor is helpful when one is “switching between careers or organizations.” Working with a career counselor can help you explore career options, as these professionals have a broad range of knowledge about various industries and job roles. If you are unsure of what career you would like to move into, career counselors will explore your background and do assessments of your skills and interests to help you decide what positions you should target next. If, on the other hand, you already have a target job or organization in mind, career counselors can help you: 1) sharpen specific job search skills, such as interviewing, and 2) improve your search strategy to so that you utilize your time most effectively during the job search process.
Executive Coaches: Moving Forward
According to a 2008 survey by Right Management Consultants (Philadelphia), only 23 percent of new managers and executives receive the coaching they need to reach to reach their full development potential. Executive coaches can help current and future organizational leaders sharpen specific skills, such as interpersonal communication, or can help improve general leadership abilities and management styles. “Executive coaches help individuals with performance on the job,” says Ellis Chase, executive coach and owner of EJ Chase Consulting, a career management consulting firm based in New York. “Many times clients come to me when they are transitioning into new jobs, or when they want to be more upwardly mobile.”
Regardless of whether you choose to work with a career counselor or an executive coach, experts agree that selecting the right coach for you is essential. Chase suggests speaking to a handful of coaches or counselors to get a sense of what it would be like working with them, and then ultimately trusting your gut when it comes time to make a final decision. “They have to be able to draw information out of you, and in order to do so you have to feel comfortable with them,” Chase says. Other aspects to look for in a coach include supportiveness, listening skills, and communication skills.
Sarah Stamboulie, head of Stamboulie Career Consulting, a career consulting business based in Manhattan, suggests asking for recommendations as a way to find an executive coach. “Many companies have a list of Executive Coaches that they use, so asking your HR Representative is a good place to start.” Columbia Business School Alumni Career Services also maintains a list of well vetted career counselors and executive coaches. Although working one-on-one with a coach or counselor is expensive, it is often an invaluable experience. Stamboulie firmly believes in the value of career counseling and executive coaching: “I can’t imagine executive coaching or career counseling not paying for itself. You only need to get a job or a promotion a few weeks sooner and the investment was worth it.”
Ben Dattner is an industrial/organizational psychologist, executive coach, and adjunct professor at New YorkUniversity. He has coached clients in the financial services, media, pharmaceutical, real estate, health care, non-profit, manufacturing, and chemical industries. He is frequently quoted in the press, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Fortune, and BusinessWeek. Ben is based in New York City. Contact Ben at http://www.dattnerconsulting.com. Ellis Chase has had a diversified, extensive experience in career and executive coaching, management consulting, and training in corporations, consulting companies, private practice, and colleges and universities. He is a founding member of the New York Chapter of the International Association of Career Management Professionals. Contact Ellis at http://www.ellischase.com. Sarah Stamboulie has been advising individuals and businesses on career and human resources issues for more than 15 years. She currently heads Stamboulie Career Consulting, a career consulting business based in Manhattan. Professional affiliations include the Five O’Clock Club Guild, the Society for Human Resource Management, the Hay Management Group, and WorldatWork. She holds an MBA from ColumbiaBusinessSchool and a BA from VassarCollege. Contact Sarah at https://www.stambouliecareerconsulting.com.